Jay Lininger, an ecologist for the Center for Biological Diversity, which had pushed for an endangerment finding, said the oil and gas companies have no intention of preserving the habitat.
“Promises to conserve the animal’s disappearing habitat will vanish into thin air,” he predicted. “The dune sagebrush lizard is in trouble. The science is very clear about that, and today the Obama administration caved to pressure from the oil and gas industry.”
There may be legal grounds to challenge the administration’s move. The Endangered Species Act sets specific requirements for conservation agreements such as the ones in Texas and New Mexico, and Mr. Lininger said Texas’ agreement appears to fall short because it doesn’t have a specified level of funding.
“Based on an analysis of these conservation plans and the protections they provide, we have determined the lizard is no longer in danger of extinction and is not likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future,” Mr. Ashe told reporters on a conference call announcing the decision.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praised the deal as an example of how environmental protection and business needs can cooperate rather than clash.
“This is a huge victory for the people who have tirelessly fought to save regional jobs and our way of life,” said Rep. Stevan Pearce, New Mexico Republican, who had vehemently fought the listing.
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